Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/18/2016 --DAWN BENNETT: Robert Vicino is the head of the Vivos Project, which is a privately funded venture to provide life assurance shelter solutions, which is another way of saying luxury doomsday underground bunkers. In 1980, Robert was inspired to build a shelter for a thousand people, deep under ground, as protection from potential life extinction events. Robert, welcome to Financial Myth Busting.
ROBERT VICINO: Thank you. Happy Valentine's Day.
BENNETT: Likewise. You've got an interesting story. So you began working on a survival shelter in the 1980s. What possessed you, way back then, to build a facility? The nuclear race, rising inflation, Jimmy Carter?
VICINO: I think it was an obsession. And where that came from was some type of inspiration that just hit me. I was in my young 20s, and I had a business with about 100 employees that I started in my garage with $100 to my name, and built it up that far. And all of a sudden, I just got this, wow, I needed to build a shelter for thousands of people to survive something that's coming our way that would be an extinction level event. And I had no idea what something was, nor what I meant by coming our way. I think I do now, but back then I was young, I didn't have any skills, expertise, other than the business I was doing. I was really good at it. But I also didn't have the resources financially. So over the last 35 years, I guess I've developed the abilities to pull it off, because I have. We now have multiple shelters.
BENNETT: And where are the shelters located?
VICINO: Well, everywhere from across America to Europe. The biggest one is in central Germany, a little town called Rothenstein. We inherited a shelter that was built by the Soviets during the cold war that is 5 kilometers long, 400 feet below a granite mountain. It can take a direct nuclear hit, and it is, in my opinion, the largest and most fortified private shelter on the planet.
BENNETT: And what does a luxury shelter look like? What does that mean?
VICINO: Well, most people feel it looks better than their own home. Not my home, but others. We've been called four stars, five stars. Certainly not a five-star finish, but what it means is that you're going to be comfortable down there to ride out the storm. Whatever the event is on the surface, this is not your grandfather's grey military metal bunker with a mattress. These are as comfortable as we could make them, given all concerns. And the reason is that you have to survive psychologically as much as you do physically, meaning whatever the event is, we have to have structures or shelters that can survive that. And trust me, these are extremely fortified shelters. In fact, we have one in Indiana that is so solid, so strong that it can be pushed through the earth sideways 30 feet without affecting it. It won't crack it, it's a monolithic, solid structure. So you've got to have the strength of the shelter to ride out the event or survive the event. You need security, but you also need comfort, or you will not psychologically survive.
BENNETT: In today's world—this isn't the '80s; this is 2016—what "event" do you think we might have where these survival shelters might come into play?
VICINO: Well, it could be an event from mankind, which we seem to be on the verge of, be it an economic collapse, as Citibank put it, or Citigroup, we're in an economic death spiral. Others call it an implosion. But if we do have an economic collapse, it's going to ruin everybody's day. Trust me, it's going to be worse than the original Great Depression, and you're going to need a shelter to survive the chaos that's going to be going on on the surface. But that would be the most mundane. Something worse might be an EMP blast, again, man-made, that'll take the lights out across North America. Should that happen, there's a report before Congress that stated 90% of the American population would kill itself off before the situation would resolve and society would come back to normal. And the reason is, in all of these scenarios, there's the haves and the have-nots. And the have-nots will do whatever they've got to do to get what you've got. And so again, you need a safe place to ride it out. But let's talk about worse events and the kind of thing that I envisioned back in the early '80s, and that is something from nature. And personally, I believe something's heading our way, and that's what I was inspired by back in the '80s. And when I say something, you know, NASA has admitted there's a very large planet or object heading our way. You can go back to the Sumerian times, go back to Noah's day, go back to Atlantis. There seems to be something out there that comes around every 3,600 or so years, and it's due. Now its time has come to get very close to the Earth, and the effects, should it happen, are going to be devastating. If you're not underground, you won't survive.
BENNETT: Are you saying we're going to get a heads up to it? We're going to know it's coming?
VICINO: Well, at some point the government's not going to be able to hide it. I think the government knows it's here now, it's coming, and they know when it's going to cause the impact or the effect that we're going to have. But they can't tell us. They can't tell us, because they don't have a solution. They're not going to tell you a problem they don't have a solution to, because all it will do is create total chaos and social meltdown. But that said, you have to ask yourself, 'Why has the government - of not only America, but Russia and China - why have they bunkered up?' And trust me, they have bunkered up, from Mount Weather, which is near you, to Denver, to Taos, New Mexico, and so on. The rumor or the conspiracy of these shelters is true; they do exist. And how do we know? We work with the same contractors. We've been contacted by many insiders, military, even a programmer who was putting together the list of who gets in. And he admitted to me that he put his family and himself on that list. But you and I are not on that list. And so therefore we have to look out for ourselves. And a shelter is a must-have in today's world. It's not if; it's a question of when. And it's a form of life assurance, and so anybody that says to me, 'That's crazy. You don't need this kind of thing. This stuff will never happen in our age,' I remind them of how often it has happened, and how through history we've had three or four extinction level events, but then go on to say, or ask, 'Do you have auto insurance for your car?' and the answer is, 'Yes.' And my response is, 'Well, that's crazy. Why do you need auto insurance until the day before the accident?'
BENNETT: Right. How does this work on a practical basis? I mean, if the economy begins crashing, do Vivos' clients begin packing their things and drive their private planes or fly their private planes to the shelter? I mean-- or do they have to wait for disaster to officially commence living there? How does this work?
VICINO: They go when they feel it's time, and that could be an alert from us or just their own gut instincts. You know, for example, there are things that could happen that there are no communications. They can't wait for the call from Vivo that we're activating the shelters, so they just go whenever they feel that there's a regional or global threatening event. I'll give you a couple of examples. Let's say a nuke goes off in London or in Paris or wherever, New York; it might be a good time to head to shelter. Let's say we see banks starting to shut down, or Deutsche Bank, the kingpin here, were to become insolvent, that would be a pretty good reason. So our members are educated well on what's going on around the world; they're able to connect the dots and monitor that. And when they feel it's time, they go. And the shelter-- they may go to shelter a dozen times in their lifetime, and it turns out to be a false alarm. But better to have a false alarm than no alarm at all.
BENNETT: Can you tell us about the type of people who are buying space at Vivos—I'm assuming that they're generally wealthy—then also give us an idea of the cost? Maybe, for example, the one in Indiana you were talking about.
VICINO: Well, they're very much like Dawn Bennett. In other words, they're average people, I assume; I don't know your background, Dawn. But they're not the elite, and that's a misnomer. That's something that several writers and reporters have labeled them as. And in fact, they're just middle class Americans. In fact, we have a lot of blue collar workers, we have a lot of military, ex-military that can hardly afford it, but they're well attuned to what's going on, and thus, they've decided to buy in. We have active duty military, we've got a couple of colonels, which are very high-ranking and very well-skilled, individuals that have served in the Middle East extensively. We have surgeons, top level surgeons, doctors of all sorts, nurses, psychologists, EMTs, firemen, you know, just go down the list. But as important, we have contractors, plumbers, electricians, the kind of guys that are going to be needed, should something go wrong while you're down there, to fix things. And so I guess the best way to characterize them is well-educated, well-read, and able to understand the repercussions if any of these type of events happen. Thus, they're family people, they really want to protect their families. And for them, it's a must-have, it's just another thing. But what they're not—and this is key to me, in my message—is they're not preppers. There's a difference. A prepper is a guy that has his camo, his ammo, his guns, his bag of rice, bag of beans, and a hide-out in the woods, and he can't wait to get it on. By comparison, our members are hardworking, regular business people or whatever, and this in the back of their minds. They're not doing anything other than they pulled out their check book and bought a space in Vivos. So to answer your question, in Indiana it's as little as $35,000 for an adult and $25,000 for a child. So pardon the pun, but the typical nuclear family - which is a mother, a father, a daughter, and a son - would buy in for about $105,000; far less than you could build a private shelter in your backyard and far bigger and comfortable and survivable than any private shelter you could buy for under, you know, a million. In fact, the Indiana shelter has a replacement value, if we were to rebuild it today, of 25 million dollars. The German one is 1 billion dollars. So these are mega structures that are extremely fortified for all purpose, all risk. In fact, they can be buried under a tsunami for a short period of time, 72 hours, and survive. So they're all risk, they're, in my mind, a must-have. I don't know if this stuff is going to happen or not, so we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
BENNETT: How long can you wait out, let's say, a nuclear winter or a tsunami? How long can you wait out in something like this, in Indiana? And then tell me, how long would they last in Germany?
VICINO: Well, we designed them-- we outfitted them and stocked them for one year of survival, and the reason is we could obviously do a longer term - we could've made it five years - but in doing so, we would've had to have more space for storage and less space for people within the cubic area in each one of these shelters. And so we had to determine what's the ideal balance? And knowing that most of these events will resolve themselves within a year, what we're outfitted for and stocked for is one year of survival, without having to go back to the surface. However, we can extend that with all sorts of rationing and cutting back on power; instead of 12 hours a day, maybe the lights are on for 8 hours, and then we switch over to battery and so on. So there's ways to extend it. There's also the chance that we might be able to go outside, onto the surface, but maybe we can't stay out there. And so in that regard, the shelter becomes a home base that people will come and go from. But we're prepared to ride out the pre-event, the event, the duration of the event, and then the thereafter, which is restarting and reinhabitating the surface.
BENNETT: In Germany, what percentage, out of 100%, has been sold?
VICINO: I won't give you the exact percentage. In fact, one of the things we do in our business is never discuss how many, who, and so on, specifically. It's just for operational security. But I can tell you we still have space in Germany. That is a mega shelter.
BENNETT: Thanks, Robert.
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About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com.
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
She can be reached on Twitter @DawnBennettFMB or on Facebook Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett.